Monday, 9 December 2019

Senate distances itself from officials' pro-China statement

ČTK |
1 December 2016

Prague, Nov 30 (CTK) - The Czech Senate distanced itself from the mid-October pro-China statement of four high constitutional officials, including Senate head Milan Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD), in a resolution passed on Wednesday, which says Stech's stance did not represent the upper house's position.

President Milos Zeman criticised the Senate's resolution later on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) said the resolution is political and that it represents the right's stance.
The resolution was proposed by the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS). It was passed after a three-hour debate by the votes of 38 of 69 senators present.

Apart from the ODS, it was supported by senators from the the minor government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the opposition Mayors and Independents (STAN), who labelled the October statement servile and kowtowing to China.
Senators for the two main government parties, the CSSD and ANO, voted against it.

Commenting on the resolution, President Milos Zeman said it is pointless to protest against the joint position of the four top elected officials in a situation where the Senate calls for Czech foreign policy to be well coordinated, his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek tweeted.

According to Zeman, the country's foreign policy is shaped by the government including the Foreign Ministry, and also the president, in cooperation with parliament.

"Senators have repeatedly called on the top constitutional officials to coordinate their foreign policies. After they did so, it is meaningless to protest against the joint position taken by the top constitutional officials," Zeman said, cited by Ovcacek.

Stech said he would change nothing in the text of the statement, since it confirmed the previously agreed-upon Czech-China commitments.

Regarding the criticism the statement provoked, he would prefer another form of expressing the Czech Republic's stance, he said.

Critics, mainly from the right-wing parties, said the statement from October 18, supported by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, the heads of the two houses of parliament (all CSSD) and President Milos Zeman, was made overhastily and was servile and submissive towards Beijing.

The statement was initiated and prepared by the Foreign Ministry after Culture Minister Daniel Herman (KDU-CSL) officially met the Tibetan Dalai Lama in Prague.

It confirmed the Czech-Chinese partnership and stated that the meeting some Czechs politicians, including those from the government KDU-CSL, had with the Dalai Lama did not mean any change in the official Czech foreign policy.

In the Senate discussion on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (CSSD) dismissed the opinion that the statement is servile. He said its goal was only to confirm the observance of commitments by Prague.

Sobotka said "when the right was in power, there were no relations with China. The government has been trying for three years to redress the trade imbalance, where China is exporting to the Czech Republic, while Czech export is low."
Sobotka said the deficit is made up for by Chinese investments and the influx of Chinese tourists.

"I have not noticed senators rejecting Chinese tourists or Czech contracts in China," Sobotka said.

He said the right was unable to behave pragmatically in this case.

Herman thanked the senators for passing the resolution.

"Once again they proved the Senate's role as a safeguard of democracy...As long as we have democrats, democracy can function," Herman said.

Apart from the above resolution, the Senate passed on Wednesday another resolution, proposed by the STAN senators. It binds all Senate representatives to actively defend the human rights of people in China and Tibet in international negotiations and calls on the Czech government to coordinate its foreign political positions and cooperation with President Zeman and the Chamber of Deputies.

Unlike the former resolution, the latter one was also supported by senators from the CSSD and ANO.

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